ATLANTA, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Only 4 percent of U.S. hospitals provide the full range of support needed to facilitate breastfeeding for new mothers, federal health officials say.
Vital Signs report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says improving rates of U.S. breastfeeding by providing better hospital support to mothers and babies will improve children's health, including reducing their risk of childhood obesity.
"Hospitals play a vital role in supporting a mother to be able to breastfeed," Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC says in a statement. "Those first few hours and days that a mom and her baby spend learning to breastfeed are critical. Hospitals need to better support breastfeeding, as this is one of the most important things a mother can do for her newborn. Breastfeeding helps babies grow up healthy and reduces healthcare costs."
The report, published online at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns, analyzed data from CDC's national survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care.
Only 14 percent of hospitals have a written, model breastfeeding policy. In nearly 80 percent of hospitals, healthy breastfeeding infants are given formula when it is not medically necessary, making it much harder for mothers and babies to learn how to breastfeed and continue breastfeeding at home, the report says.
In nearly 75 percent of hospitals, mothers and babies do not get the support they need when they leave the hospital, including a follow-up visit, a phone call from hospital staff and referrals to support systems in their community.